Graham Rowntree has insisted Munster’s early-season woes are simple fixes but individual players need to react better if the province is to get back to winning ways this Saturday.
Head coach Rowntree will lead his side at home for the first time since taking the reins from predecessor Johann Van Graan when Munster host Zebre Parma in the BKT United Rugby Championship at Cork’s Musgrave Park on Saturday evening but he will do so on the back of two deeply disappointing performances and defeats at Cardiff and Dragons.
Both accrued losing bonus points but Rowntree was scathing in his post-match comments at Rodney Parade following Sunday’s 23-17 loss to Dragons, their first to the Newport side in seven years.
Rowntree questioned his players’ inaccuracy at the breakdown, in defence and attack and in terms of discipline as former Red JJ Hanrahan kicked 18 points from penalties and speaking to media on Wednesday the new head coach said the issues had been addressed in an “honest” review session on Tuesday.
“Those controllables from us weren’t where they need to be. We’ve addressed that this week,” Rowntree said.
"I have absolute belief in the body of work we have gone through this summer. We worked exceptionally hard, trained well.
"I've been around a bit and have seen a lot of pre-seasons, a lot of training environments and I have absolute belief in what we've done and that it's going to come out in the game.
"As I keep saying, it's stuff that we can control and we have to be better. So we've addressed that this week.”
Asked to specifically address breakdown inaccuracies, the Munster boss added: "It's not the result of a new attacking framework, it's the result of reactions from individuals. Individual responsibility, that comes from the ball carrier and the guys' reaction to that, and it's got to be better.
"The pictures are undeniable. The breakdown is the heartbeat of the game and it's got to be better, it has received a lot of attention this week.” Looking ahead to Saturday’s URC clash on the artificial 4G surface at Musgrave Park, Rowntree warned that his side would have to be sharp defensively to keep out a Zebre side that despite also losing their opening two games of the season had run both Leinster and Sharks close and earned try-scoring bonus points in the process.
“They’ve scored some good tries, haven’t they? They’re coming over full of confidence, crikey, they’re playing quick.
“We certainly can’t play too loosely against them but it’s another chance for us to right our wrongs. We’ve had a disappointing start to the season, I’m not going to shy way from that.”